As human beings, we have a built-in desire to learn and expand our knowledge to grow and develop. The type of learning can be different between people. Some people love to hear about what other people are doing—the gossips— others love reading books about nature and some enjoy reading the news. We all have it and it is built in.
Like all learning, some of the knowledge gained is useful and some less useful. Gossiping and commenting on the latest news is not going to develop you very much as a person, and in all likelihood is going to make you angry, sad or happy, depending on your viewpoint.
While other knowledge, such as learning a new skill or a new language, can help you to grow intellectually and give you skills that can lead to better career prospects and an increase in your income.
The difficulty for many people is finding the learning motivation after we have finished our formal education. For example, I did not enjoy learning languages when I was at school. Now, many years after I left school, I find it hard to motivate myself to learn the language of the country I find myself living in, even though to do so would greatly improve my income growth potential and enable me to make new friends.
We are living in rapidly changing times. The work we do today is at risk of being replaced by automation and AI. If we want to continue to grow and develop, we need to make sure we are learning new skills faster than automation, and AI can keep up.
So, here are a number of ways that can help motivate you to continue to learn after you have graduated from school.
1. You Get to Choose What You Learn
When we were at school, we had little choice about what we learned. We all learned to the same thing.
In my case, the basic subjects were maths, languages (English, Latin and French) and science. It did not matter that I hated maths, I still had to learn it.
Today, I can choose what I want to learn. That makes learning new things a lot of fun. Over the last twelve months, I have learned about neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), social media marketing and meditation. All of these subjects have been fascinating and have been enjoyable to learn.
2. Remind Yourself of the Outcome
One of the things I have chosen to learn this year is Korean. I live in Korea and do have what I describe as ‘survival Korean’, but I wanted to take my ability to communicate in Korean to fluency.
I do not enjoy learning languages, largely because it is a slow process. So on the days I am not ‘in the mood’ to learn, I remind myself of why I am learning it.
I visualize being able to walk into a shop or restaurant and having a full conversation with the staff. Or riding in a taxi and discussing the latest news with the driver. Doing this very quickly gets me back ‘in the mood’ and I am soon learning more verbs, nouns and conjugations.
3. Make Your “Why” for Learning Emotionally Strong
Learning something new so you can win an argument in your office is not likely to be a strong reason to learn something new. Sure, that brief moment of victory may give some satisfaction but it will not last.
But if your reason for learning is so you develop a new skill that will make your work better or more efficient, you are always going to have a strong incentive to continue learning.
Before beginning a new learning project, think about why you want to learn that particular subject and make sure the reason why is strong and connected to some form of emotional need.
When your reasons are connected to an emotion such as happiness, love or fulfilment, you are always going to find the motivation to sit down and learn.
4. Have a Goal
My goal for learning Korean is to do a TED-like presentation in Korean in June next year. Every time I sit down to study Korean, I remind myself of my goal and I imagine introducing myself in Korean to the audience.
But not only that, I also want to speak the language so well that if someone was listening to me on the radio or on a podcast, they would not be able to tell I was a non-native Korean speaker. This goal not only gives me a time pressure (speaking fluently by June next year), it also gives me some excitement because I can imagine how I will feel when I sit down after giving my talk.
5. Mix up How You Learn
When I was at university, there was only one way to learn and study — read the textbooks. My degree was in law and if you have never sat down to read a land law textbook, you have never discovered how intensely boring a textbook can be.
Today, we have so many different ways to learn. We can begin with Wikipedia to get a basic understanding of a subject, we can then do a search on Amazon to find books on the subject, and we can go to YouTube and watch videos on the subject. All three of these avenues of learning I’ve used recently when I learned about neuro-linguistic programming.
It was fun and enjoyable. I could choose which way I wanted to learn depending on my mood.
6. Join Online Groups
Discussion groups are a great way to maintain your motivation when learning. Facebook, Quora and WhatsApp all have user groups you can join to get involved in discussion groups and have your questions answered.
You can even post a question on Twitter and with the right hashtags, attract other people from all over the world to answer your questions or get involved in a discussion.
If you find your motivation is waning, post a question in one of these groups and see what happens. You will soon find your motivation again.
7. Set a Fixed Time Each Day to Study
This one has really worked for me. Earlier this year, I decided to begin waking up at 5 AM (to join Robin Sharma’s 5 AM Club((Robin Sharma: Be Wise, Early Rise))). The question I had was: what would I do between 5 AM and 6 AM? The answer for me was to use that time to study Korean.
Now, six months into the journey, I love waking up at 5 AM, and sitting down with my morning coffee and learning Korean. I begin with doing my self-introduction while walking around my living room imagining presenting in front of an audience. I then spend twenty minutes learning new verbs and I finish off watching a video from my favourite Korean teacher (Korean Unnie((YouTube: Korean Unnie 한국언니))) on YouTube. Six months in and when I wake up, I know exactly what I am going to do and I have no difficulties with motivation.
8. Create Mini Goals
A few months ago, I set the goal of being able to ask a taxi driver to drop me off in front of the subway station. This was something I regularly found myself wanting to do but did not know exactly how to do it. So I asked a Korean friend of mine how to say the sentence and I then spent a couple of study sessions practising it.
The next time I was in a taxi, I used the phrase to ask the taxi driver to drop me off in front of the subway station and he understood me perfectly. WOW! The feeling of pride I had was fantastic. This gave me more motivation to continue to find other phrases I wanted to learn to use in my everyday life.
Setting mini-goals that you can use to check your progress is a sure way to keep you motivated to continue your learning journey.
9. Seek Different Ways to Learn
Whenever you find your motivation disappearing, change the way you learn.
Last year, I decided I wanted to learn how to use Adobe InDesign and I began my learning on YouTube with one of my favourite Adobe experts, Terry White. Terry White has put together a series of videos called “How To Get Started With… ” and these videos are fantastic to get you started. Once I had completed that video, I enrolled in an online course on Skillshare that took my understanding of InDesign to the next level and once that was completed I gave myself a project to develop a workbook in InDesign.
While I was creating the workbook, there were a few more things I needed to learn, so I searched Google for ways to learn how to do them.
By the end of three months, I was proficient in using InDesign and it is now one of my favourite Adobe tools. By mixing up the way I learned, I found myself motivated and eager to learn more.
10. Give Yourself Mini-Rewards
This is a great way to keep yourself motivated. When you have successfully completed a new area of learning, reward yourself. The reward could be a night out with your friends to celebrate successfully mastering a new area, or it could be buying yourself a new toy.
Having these mini-rewards taps into the “pleasure/pain” part of your brain and your brain soon begins to understand that when you successfully study, something pleasurable happens. When your brain understands this, all you need to do is remind yourself of what reward will come whenever you feel a lack of motivation and your motivation will soon return.
Learning something new can be difficult. In the rush of initial excitement, it is easy to be motivated to learn; but over time, that initial excitement recedes and you need to find other ways to motivate yourself.
These ten tips will help to make sure when you have gone through the initial enthusiasm and learning more becomes difficult, you have the means to get motivated to continue your journey and expand your knowledge.